Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!

Tag Archives: The Flash

ANCC: Crisis on Earth-X

This week, Nick and Cuz will talk about the this season’s CW superhero crossover, Crisis on Earth-X!  They loved it, but, because they are total nerds, they take the entire hour to complain and nitpick it to death.  We know; it’s cliche.

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image below!

 

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ANCC: The Flash – Season 3

This week, Nick and guest host Cousin Charles discuss the latest season of the fastest man alive, The Flash! What do they have to say about this Flashpoint-inspired season and about its big mystery villain, Savitar? Come check it out!

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image below!

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The Flash’s Second Season was Awful

Talk about a sophomore slump.  The first season of The Flash was light, fun fluff.  It wasn’t game changing, but it was enjoyable with enough character beats to keep me invested.  The second season took a crap on all of it making it such a trying experience by the end.

helmit

Where to begin?  The season starts out okay with an interesting premise introducing the concept parallel worlds (allowing for a creative way to keep Tom Cavanagh on the show), the classic comic book character Jay Garrick (Teddy Sears), a terrifying new villain known as Zoom, and a new love interest for Barry (Grant Gustin).  All good stuff that made for a promising season of ideas.

But the show’s writing slowly began going downhill at a steady pace.  First, they ditch Barry’s girlfriend in the most awkward and unconvincing way ever.  Then the team of supposed scientists continue to make awful decision after awful decision.  They are supposed to be smart, but they cannot concoct a scheme to take down this season’s villain when they have him directly at their mercy.  These people are stupid.  More on that later.

The biggest sin is in this season’s villain, Zoom.  We are never given a clear idea what exactly he wants.  Does he just want Barry’s speed because he wants to go faster?  Or because he’s dying?  Don’t know. It is later revealed that he wants to destroy the multiverse.  Why?  What does he gain from this?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  He kidnaps Caitlin (Danielle Panbaker) for “reasons” and then later lets her go for “reasons”.  His motivations and desires are all over the place.

Even more maddening is that the basic idea behind Zoom is exactly the same as the villain from last year.  A mentor figure to the team is really the villain who is helping Barry to get faster in order for him to ultimately steal his speed.  Did the writers and/or producers not see that they were already repeating themselves?

As mentioned above, these characters are stupid.  And Barry is incredibly selfish.  The season ended with Barry, feeling bad about himself because his father just died, goes back in time to save his mother from being killed.  For starters, this plotline was resolved a year ago.  Second, how dumb is Barry?!  He knows that if he saves his mom, he is destroying the future.  And, on top of that, he should know that changing the past like that has the potential to wipe out existence as it almost did at the end of last season (which subsequently set-up this season’s problems).  And even further, it goes completely against the lesson he learned a few episodes prior that Barry needs to work through and accept the tragedies in his life.   And finally, did he conveniently forget the time wraiths who go after speedsters for messing with time – the very thing that defeated Zoom?

And don’t get me started on the nonsense “time remnant” plot point or the over-the-top narrative gymnastics/fan service with the John Wesley Shipp reveal.

This show had turned into garbage.  There are some bright spots still with some fun interaction between the characters and some good additions to the case.  But, overall this show has fallen.  People love to give the Batman prequel Gotham a lot of crap, but at least that show is consistent.  The Flash’s producers really need to reconsider what they are wanting to do with this series.  I’m not going to give up on it yet.  I think it is recoverable.  Hopefully the third season will give the writers to iron out whatever issues they are having.

~N

ANCC: Favorite Superheroes

After a week off due to technical difficulties, Nick and the Gorehound are back!  Since we are in the midst of a superhero summer at the movies, they decided to talk about some of their favorite superheroes!  Join the fun and have a listen on who they like!  It might just surprise you!

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image.

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ANCC: TV Shows (2015 Edition)

Nick and the Gorehound come together to discuss what they are watching on TV or TV-on-Netflix.  The two discuss a wide variety of shows from The Flash and Vikings to Entourage and Chicago area legend, Svengoolie!  But that isn’t all…Nick, the couch potato that he is, decides it is a good idea to each potato chips while talking.  The results are hilariously awkward! Come and give a listen!

Click here or on the image to listen to the podcast!

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Speed Watching! – The Flash: Season One

Tonight was the premiere of The Flash’s second season, and the CW was really promoting it like no other. And I cannot blame them. The Flash was a runaway hit for the CW with critics and audiences last year. No wonder they are giving it all the pomp and circumstance they can muster.

flashBut why was this show so popular? Obviously, I watched it (I’m a fan of the Flash), and the leading reason why The Flash has caught on is that it is a lot of fun. It is a show with relatable characters that you actually like. It has the hook of a superhero (which, like it or not, are really popular nowadays), but it adds in healthy doses of humor, romance, adventure, and heart. The show is light and breezy making it good for families, but with just enough edge. It makes for a pleasurable viewing experience.

And, on a personal note, last season had an underlying them of father/son relationships. Seriously! Barry had three father figures on the show, and each brought something different to the table. While I have always appreciated of a father/son dynamic in storytelling, having lost my father just before the show premiered last October, this element of The Flash spoke to me.

Because all of the above worked within the show, The Flash was really able to embrace its comic book origins. The Flash and the extended elements of that character’s world are incredibly goofy, but the show managed to incorporate it onto the show. The writers and producers didn’t shy away from it at all. They were even able to pull off a giant, telepathic gorilla. While I find that other comic book based shows and movies tend to downplay the more fantastic elements so it can better connect to viewers easily, The Flash says “Pfft….more gorilla” to that.

The writers are smart. They knew they had to have characters that worked and storylines that resonated with viewers. They did. That’s how they can get away with the fantastical.

I know it sounds like I am fawning over it (and I suppose I am), but don’t mistake my tone. The show is good and a lot of fun, but it is far from perfect. Some of the plot points are suspect (illegally imprisoning the villains without any due process and none of our heroes care) and a couple of characters here and there can be trying at times or perplexing added at times (tell me, what was the point of character-actor Chase Masterson’s guest spot), but everything else really worked with the show, so that stuff really didn’t bother me.

The Flash isn’t going to win any non-technical awards. This isn’t Game of Thrones or Mad Men. But, it isn’t trying to be. And, unlike those shows which can be dour and depressing, The Flash is a ton of fun and a breath of fresh air. I am looking forward to the second season. Here’s hoping it maintains its momentum!

~N

Good-Bye, New 52! Hello, DCYou!

A few years ago, DC Comics rebooted their superhero publishing line. By wiping the continuity clean, writers and artists were able to rebuild characters and concepts from the ground up and not be hindered about what came before. It also allowed for an excellent jumping on point for potential new or lapsed readers. This initiative was titled “The New 52” as DC launched 52 new series. At the time, I did an opinion piece on the launch and promised to do a one-year-later follow-up.

The follow-up never happened. However, DC is now retiring the New 52 branding and going in a new creative direction, so why not look back at the New 52?

new52The core idea behind the New 52 was to increase sales. And they did. Those first few months DC was booming. Like anything, sales eventually decreased and leveled out. However, the company was still making more money than they were from before the reboot. On that level, they succeeded.

However, there was a lot of turmoil behind the scenes early on in the New 52. Many creators felt stifled by their editors and higher-ups. Story changes were decreed at the last minute. Things that were approved where later unapproved. Many creators such as George Perez and Rob Liefeld left their books in frustration on how the company was being run. Things were looking grim and a number of books suffered for it.

For example, the Superman line had a lot of problems finding a footing. Grant Morrison started the New 52 by telling Superman’s early days in Action Comics (which started off well, but then got too “Grant Morrison-y” for its own good), but the main Superman title had no direction for a good year (some of which was stated to be because Morrison refused to tell other writers his plans thereby making it difficult for them to write stories since Morrison’s story was taking place in the past) before much reviled (for reasons alien to me) Scott Lobdell came on and gave the book the focus it needed.

Superman had some problems getting going.  Writer/artist George Perez left after 6 issues.

Superman had some problems getting going. Writer/artist George Perez left after 6 issues.

That said, other titles were very successful. Scott Snyder’s Batman and Geoff John’s Justice League were critical and financial successes. Additionally, The Flash seemed to suffer from very little editorial meddling. It seemed as if the meddling depending on who was writing it. This problem seemed to get better with time and is virtually gone by now (at least what is made public).

While I enjoyed what DC was doing and was constantly invested in the comics I read (ie. The Flash) or what I read through news sites, I was a bit disappointed that DC didn’t push the envelope further to really change things up. I know after being in business in various forms for 75+ years and a total corporate company, they are not going to rock the boat too much, but how great it would have been to reboot these superheroes and completely reimagine them in the process. Think how the Golden Age Flash (Jay Garrick) was reimagined into the Silver Age Flash (Barry Allen). Same basic concept, but new take with it.

DC did this somewhat with the popular Earth 2 series which completely revamped and modernized the Golden Age heroes. Earth 2 is a book that I truly loved the concept and the general ideas behind it, but I just could not get into it as I would have liked. Much of that had to do with then-writer James Robinson’s story pacing issues and truly awful and confusing dialogue.

Beyond that, DC did take some risks with a few titles by having some focusing on being a western, fantasy, science fiction, and even political. Unfortunately, none of these were all that successful and were cancelled at various times during the New 52. But, hey, at least they tried to bring something new to the table.

In the end, I do think the New 52 was successful. Is it the success that DC and others may have wanted? I don’t know. People who were against the reboot for really petty reasons complained about it endlessly it seemed. Some overzealous fanboys just can’t be happy unless they complain. What I do know is that it is probably good that they are retiring the branding. It has been nearly 4 years. Time to move on.

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Which is what they are doing. DC just did a mini-revamp to their publishing line. Nothing as drastic as the New 52 reboot as the New 52 continuity is continuing on. Calling itself the DCYou (a play on DCU – DC Universe), the initiative is trying to create new starting points for readers to jump on the books. Most of the titles are re-introducing their characters with new costumes and/or status quos.

Most interesting with DCYou is that creators are reporting a lot of creative freedom – much more than they have had before. This, of course, is ironic given the complete reversal that was reported at the beginning of the New 52. Continuity between books is supposedly going to be much looser than before. The idea being that DC wants their writers to write the best story ever and not worry about what is happening in another book.

I like this approach. I think it frees writers up by not having to worry about other books. Continuity between books was never a real big thing during the first 30-40 years of comic book publishing – why not go back to that?

Do I think there will be epic crossovers in the future? Of course I do. Those sell. However, I don’t think it DC’s idea is that they are going to be focusing on one crossover event leading into another crossover event. For what is it is worth, there has been a surprisingly small amount of actual major crossover storylines since the start of the New 52. Perhaps this is an extension of it.

The DCYou is also experimenting with different types of storytelling with satirical books such as Prez and all-ages books such as Bizarro. It is great to see more diversity in a publishing line (and better advertising for it the more off-beat, non-superhero titles).

Not to say that the DCYou campaign is not without its controversies as demonstrated by Batman's new look.

Not to say that the DCYou campaign is not without its controversies as demonstrated by Batman’s new look.

So, where does all this lead me? Am I still going to be collecting The Flash and reviewing the speedster’s adventures month after month? Truth is, I don’t know. Here is the catch with the “DCYou”: a good handful of books are jumping in price from $2.99 to $3.99 without any page increase or other incentives (as far as I know) that would justify a price increase. The Flash is one of these books (likely due to the runaway success of the character’s TV show).

I know that prices go up. And I knew that DC wouldn’t be able to keep all their comics at $2.99 forever. However, for the longest time, $2.99 was my limit to spend on a monthly comic (not counting a special or a one-off). It gets too costly for something that is only 20 pages long. I know I only buy one comic a month on a regular basis, but a line in the sand needs to be drawn. $3.99 is that line.  And, given its monthly sales, I don’t think Flash warrants to be a $3.99 comic.

So, I don’t know what I want to do with that. I’m leaving that door open for right now. Maybe you’ll see a review pop-up here within the next week. Maybe you won’t. Who knows? I might wait and go to a convention in a few months and pick up the new comics in reduced price bins. Or will I cave? It’s possible.

Flash might be unstoppable, but his new price tag might stop me.

Flash might be unstoppable, but his new price tag might stop me.

Back on point: Good-bye New 52! You did your job well, but it is not time to move on. Hello DCYou! Let’s see what you have for us! Maybe I’ll do a follow-up piece in a few months to see how things played out. Oh, who am I kidding? Even I know I won’t.

~N

Speed Reading! – The Flash #40

"The End of the Road"

“The End of the Road”

Our two storylines finally collide and Future Flash deals with Overload and present-day Flash deals with Selkirk.  And, in direct contrast to my earlier complaints of this storyline being too drawn out, the resolution feels completely rushed.  And it was even a double issue!

In the Speed Force, Barry is strapped down as Selkirk talks in some kind of squiggly speak (wonder what that translates to) and brings down the Speed Force lightning.  Obviously, things don’t go as easily as planned and he gets half his face blown off.  But Barry gets his powers back and races out of there.

While that goes on, Future Flash gets his hand blown off trying to protect Iris and Patty (who thought they would somehow be able to stop him) from Overload.  Where are the cops during this?  Isn’t there a huge mayoral event going on a block away?  Anyway, this causes Barry to come clean that he’s not Patty’s Barry, but a future version of Barry.  Patty, for reasons that can only be described as “Comics!”, accepts this and demands to know where her Barry is.

After an exposition dump and a pep talk from Patty, Future Flash realizes how to defeat Overload without killing him and shorts out all the nearby electronics by causing them to be used all at once.  Happy that the “buzzing” stopped, Overload is taken away by the police.

Then the present-day Barry arrives.  But before these two Flashes can duke it out, Selkirk, now with speed abilities arrives on the scene.

Future Flash, who suddenly turned a leaf (from Patty’s pep talk?), decides to take himself out to end Selkirk and he forces a collision with Barry to recreate the explosion from issue 35.  It works.  Selkirk is gone and Future Flash winks out of existence just before he gives Barry a name connected to his mother’s death: Thawne.

Then Patty breaks up with Barry for the most questionable of reasons: she sees the Future Flash in him.

While I am not too saddened that Barry and Patty are over, her reasoning doesn’t seem to really make logical sense.  She knew that Future Flash wasn’t her Barry and, partly due to the former’s actions, that her Barry would never become that.  It seems horribly, horribly unfair to Barry that this happens.

I can see if she broke it off with him because of all the crazy danger she has found herself in.  That’s different and justifiable, if clichéd a bit.  Maybe they wanted to put the toys back into the box for DC’s mini-relaunch, but this was tough to buy into.

Following Barry’s heartbreak, we see Selkirk (presumably back in the Speed Force).  His body is broken and spine is shattered.  He’s talking to someone, and that person is the New 52’s Professor Zoom.

I suppose it was only a matter of time before we were reintroduced to Zoom.  We already gotten a new Reverse Flash, but with the TV show using Eobard Thawne as the main nemesis, it seemed only logical that Thawne would show up in the books.  I wonder if he’ll use the moniker of Reverse Flash or just Professor Zoom.  Time will tell, I suppose, but I to love his new look.

Again, I feel that this issue was rushed, but it worked for a finale.  Now that DC comics is going into their two-month Convergence story event and Flash coming back after that, maybe Venditti and Jensen will be able to work out their pacing problems.  I’m excited about the Professor Zoom returning, but I am getting weary of another “evil speeder” story arc.  This is the third one we’ve gotten in two years (four if you count the Future Flash as two).   Let’s see what happens.

In other news, I am all caught up with my reviews!  Huzzah!

Next: In June, The Flash Returns to Face his Deadliest Enemies Yet.

Speed Reading! – The Flash #39

“Power Loss”

All right.  This is what I am talking about.  Actual progression and development!  I’ve been growing weary with this storyline as of late, and we get somewhere with it.

First: Flash in the Speed Force.  The group finally makes it to the top of the mountain.  There was danger along the way and one member of the group (who suspiciously looks exactly like Cyclops from the X-Men [including having a giant “X” on his shirt]) bites it.  But they get there and find a temple.  Flash sees all these carvings about speedsters and learns that Selkirk has been deceiving him the entire time.

Consider me not shocked by this at all.

You see, apparently Selkirk can (somehow) call down lightning that can get people out of the Speed Force, but lacks the proper lightning rod.  Enter The Flash.  So, Selkirk has lured the Flash to the mountain in order to make a rod out of him.

I have lots of questions about this.  First, who made all the cave drawings – including the one that depicted Selkirk zapping lightning into The Flash?  Two: Why didn’t Selkirk just tell Barry what he wanted to do?  Barry is the type that probably would have been willing to work something out.  Three: Is the “Savage Speed Force” different from the previous Speed Force?  Up until now, it seems to have been the same place, just different locations.  Now, the issue seems to backtrack from that indicating that this is a different place and that they need to call down the Speed Force to escape from it.

Maybe some of this will be explained next time.  It just seems like this guy was obviously evil from the beginning (my evidence: the “too good to be true” technique), but Barry never bothered to question the guy.  I can’t help but think that he wouldn’t do that.  I don’t want to Monday morning quarterback here, but couldn’t Barry have questioned something at the beginning and Selkirk give him some line of bullshit?  Then Barry (and the readers) could buy it only later realize Selkirk was lying?

As is, I couldn’t believe that Selkirk had Barry’s best intentions in mind.  Then again, maybe we, the readers, were not supposed to think that. Instead, perhaps we were to watch Barry making a terrible decision by trusting the guy.  Kind of like in a horror film when we know the soon-to-be-victim is going into a room that we, the viewers, know will lead to the character’s death.  If that was the case, I am not sure Venditti and Jensen were successful in that regard.

Anyway, I’m going on long enough about that aspect of the story.  I am sure more will come next time.

While Barry is dealing with his trust issues, Future Flash makes his move on Overload in Central City.  Turns out Overload gets a super-migraine with all the electronics buzzing around and that causes him (somehow) to blow things/people up.  Future Flash finally tracks him down before he really reigns down destruction.  He’s about to go in for the kill with Iris and Patty arrive, and Future Flash accidently hits Patty.  Iris sees this and is convinced Flash is a killer.  Overload then strikes.

This moved along nicely.  It had good action and pace and enough backstory to get who this Overload character was.  I like the idea of him and the commentary of our digital devices.  It makes him less of an outright villain and more of a sympathetic character.  He seemingly doesn’t want to kill or destroy things.  He’s just in that much pain that he doesn’t know how to deal with it.  How that translates into powers, I am a bit unsure of, but I’m willing to let that one slide for right now, because “Comics!”.

As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, this storyline has gone on too long, but now that we are reaching the climax, it’s hitting all the right notes.  Despite the issues I had with the Selkirk storyline this time around, it isn’t that bit of a deal.  They are just questions I have – it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of The Flash #39.  I’m pumped for the grand finale.

Next: Flash and Future Flash Race Toward The End of the Road!

Speed Reading! – The Flash #38

“Skeletons in the Closet”

“Skeletons in the Closet”

The duel-Flash stories continue on.  I can’t help but feel that the “Future Flash” storyline was stretched out in order to facilitate DC Comics’ mandate to wrap-up storylines at issue 40 (to service the company’s move to the west coast) as there seems to be a lot of wheel spinning going on here.  That said, the current issue does seem to be moving the storyline forward on multiple fronts.

The Flash from the now-alternate future continues to act hard-core with his enemies.  The latest villain to encounter him is a wannabe Rogue, Napalm.  Napalm, as we soon learn, is an obnoxious twit that even his evaluator, Mirror Master, finds annoying.  Future-Flash doesn’t have time for this and winds up severing his arm.  He’s even about to kill him in cold-blood when he notices Iris in the crowd.  Future-Flash speeds off, and Iris fully believes that “The Flash” is now a killer.

Odd reasoning considering that Future-Flash didn’t kill Napalm, and, more importantly, Iris knows the Flash.  Shouldn’t she wonder if something else is going on before jumping to the simplistic conclusions?  Granted, she’s correct in her assumptions, but it seemed out of character to leap to her conclusion.

Not helping matters for the doppelgänger is that Patty is also refining her suspicions that Flash isn’t who he says he is.

While that is going on, the real Flash is still stuck in the Speed Force and learns a lot more about Selkirk.  Turns out that he studies speedsters before he was pulled into the Speed Force.  His past is outlined over a two-page spread, but the interesting thing I took away from this is that he very casually references that other speedsters have existed in the DC Universe before Barry Allen.  I’m a little surprised that Barry didn’t find this the least bit interesting.

I hope this is the set-up for something.  The Speed Force mythology as originated for the New 52 back in the first Grodd issue is very interesting as there seems to be a lot to mine.  Hopefully, this can be explored when and if the Future Flash storyline is resolved.

Anyway, Selkirk and Flash then head out to the top of a mountain that will give Flash his powers back.  Somehow.  It still isn’t explained to Flash (or the readers) how this will work.

I am growing antsy with this story arc.  What happened to Overload?  He’s still around, right?  We get a mention of him, but this character really feels like an afterthought.  Oh well.  At least, we got some good Brett Booth artwork to look at.

Next: On the Hunt for a Killer!

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